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Cleveland Man Sentenced to Life for Domestic Violence Murder

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On April 26, 2022, a Liberty County jury found Phillip Jerome Simmons, 57, guilty of Murder and sentenced him to life in prison. Simmons will be required to serve 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole. The Honorable Judge Mark Morefield, 75th Judicial District Court, presided over the two-day trial.

Prosecutors Kevin Barnes and Kayla Herrington presented evidence that on April 30, 2020, Simmons shot Trena “Nikki” Jordan while inside her home and while on her back porch. Evidence showed that Simmons was the former significant other of Jordan and they had a Daughter who was present at the time of the murder. The jury heard how Simmons shot Jordan with a high caliber handgun in the back, five times while inside her home and three times while she lay dying on her back porch. Jurors also heard testimony from Officers from the Cleveland Police Department who responded to the call for help at the residence located on S. Holley Street, neighbors and family of the victim, and a firearms and tool markings expert. The crime scene was well investigated by law enforcement such that the photographs and other evidence told a clear story of what happened – that Simmons brutally murdered Jordan in front of their 13-year-old Daughter.

The most compelling and emotional testimony presented at trial was that of Akeelah Jordan, the daughter of both Jordan and Simmons. Akeelah testified that she and her Mother had returned home from visiting her Aunt down the street and Simmons immediately confronted her Mother after they entered the home. After Simmons pulled a handgun and shot into the ceiling, Akeelah and her Mother attempted to flee from the home, desperately running toward the back door. Simmons began firing at Jordan, striking her 5 times in her back as she ran toward the back door. Akeelah stated that her Mother tripped on her shoes as she exited the backdoor of the residence and fell. Simmons fired 3 more shots into Jordan’s back as he stood over her, in essence executing her in front of their Daughter. Evidence was presented that Akeelah ran toward the home of her Aunt, screaming for help and stating that her “Daddy had just killed her Mamma”. Emotional testimony from a neighbor was presented recounting the events of that day and the fact that the neighbor, along with another responding neighbor, ran to where Jordan lay on the back porch, and they held her head in their hands as she took her last breath. After the murder, Simmons was observed calmly walking to his vehicle and leaving the scene with the weapon in his hand. Simmons never called for help or exhibited any emotion. Simmons was caught by law enforcement 3 hours later.

After the State rested, Simmons testified on his own behalf, after being properly admonished by the Trial Court. Simmons stated that Jordan pulled a knife on him in the kitchen during an argument they were having. He further testified that Jordan stated that she was going to kill him. In response to this threat, Simmons retrieved a gun from the bedroom, including a second full clip, and returned to where Jordan was standing. He testified that Jordan dropped the knife and began to flee from the home. Stating he was in fear for his life from a now fleeing woman, Simmons began shooting at her, striking her 5 times in her back before she exited the home and 3 times while she lay on the back porch. When asked about his Daughter Akeelah’s testimony, Simmons stated that she was lying. The State presented evidence that Simmons had previously been convicted of Theft >$200,000.00 out of Tarrant County for which he had received a 20-year sentence. After serving 8 years of this sentence, Simmons was paroled in December 2019. Less than 4 -months later, he murdered Jordan.
The jury was not compelled to believe the self-defense claim made by Simmons and after approximately 30 minutes, rendered their verdict of guilty. In the punishment phase, the State once again called Akeelah Jordan, who expressed to the jury how much she loved and missed her Mamma and how her life would never be the same. The jury retired to deliberate and quickly returned a verdict of life in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.

After taking a short break, the Trial Court allowed the family and friends of the victim to speak to the Trial Court during allocution. In a show of strength, Trial Court heard from the Sisters, Nieces, Friends, and Akeelah Jordan.

Assistant District Attorney, Kevin Barnes: “I would like to thank the Officers of the Cleveland Police Department, the jury, the victim’s neighbors, family, and especially the victim’s Daughter. Their hard work and willingness to testify are why a murderer was sentenced to life in prison and will never walk the streets of our communities again.”

Assistant District Attorney, Kayla Herrington: “This senseless act of violence has destroyed so many lives. I hope this verdict brings some measure of closure to Jordan’s family.”

District Attorney, Jennifer L. Bergman: “First, on behalf of the Liberty County District Attorney’s Office, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to the jurors who heard and weighed the evidence presented at trial, and who handed down a verdict that was so rightly deserved. The defendant didn’t just take the Mother of his child away, he made her witness something a child should never experience. Phillip Simmons forever stole a Mother from her children, a Sister, a niece, an Aunt, a neighbor, and a friend from this community in a senseless act of domestic violence. His selfishness changed the course of so many lives and the jury made sure his was one of them. Even before Simmons committed this horrible murder, there were signs of domestic violence. This case is the poison fruit of a relationship fraught with control and domestic violence that was allowed to flourish. This case is a prime example of why this Office takes and will continue to take cases of domestic violence so seriously. Thankfully, due to the excellent work of the Cleveland Police Department, the brave friends, family, and neighbors of Trena ‘Nikki’ Jordan, Phillip Simmons will never again be allowed to walk the streets of our community.”